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Reddit bolsters its rules against bullying and harassment of users

Reddit’s bullying and harassment policy just got a major tune-up in a move designed to fix the previous policy, which the company says was too narrow. On Monday, September 30, Reddit shared an updated Content Policy with tighter restrictions on bullying and harassment, including updates to reporting abuse.

The updated policy makes three major changes. First, the policy no longer requires abuse to be “continued” and “systematic,” allowing the platform to take action even if the abuse isn’t repeated over time. Second, the policy adjusts the definition of what constitutes abuse. The previous policy required that users fear for their real-world safety. Finally, the policy now clarifies that abuse can be targeted toward an individual or a group.

“All these things meant that too often, instances of harassment and bullying, even egregious ones, were left unactioned,” a Reddit administrator wrote. “This was a bad user experience for you all, and frankly, it is something that made us feel not great too. It was clearly a case of the letter of a rule not matching its spirit.”

Besides tightening the definition of what constitutes bullying and harassment on the platform, Reddit says it is also working to improve reporting tools. Previously, abuse could only be reported by the victim — now other users will be able to initiate a report, even if the harassment happened to another user.

Artificial intelligence will also soon help improve the platform’s response to abuse. The tool will help human reviewers prioritize which abuse reports to tackle first, but the A.I. won’t be responsible for detecting the abuse or enforcing the new rules.

Reddit says users may not notice a change right away as staff works to improve their response times with the new policy. But that doesn’t mean Reddit hasn’t already taken action on the new policy. Several subreddits appear to have been banned under the new changes, with groups like r/Braincels, an incel movement forum, now missing from the platform. Incels, a portmanteau of “involuntary celibates,” are members of an online subculture who define themselves as unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one.

Reddit users can report abuse against an individual — even if that individual is someone other than themselves — or can report an entire group or person on the platform. The report button is built into individual posts, while groups and users can be reported through Reddit’s online reporting system.

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